An Oregon Perspective: Developing Real Health Care Reform

Our nation faces a number of daunting challenges:  high
unemployment, skyrocketing foreclosures, and a credit freeze which is crippling
businesses.   Each of them is contributing to another long-simmering
crisis:  the unavailability and unaffordability of health care. 
Forty-seven million Americans do not have health insurance and millions more
are under-insured.  Seniors have to pick and choose which medicines they
can afford and people skip needed medical visits because they can’t afford the
payments.  Folks who have health insurance are afraid of losing it and
people without insurance are afraid of getting sick.  We need a better

Over the last several months I’ve been working nonstop with
my colleagues on the Senate Health Committee to develop legislation that will
provide affordable, quality health care for every American. 

The plan we are working on will expand access to health
care, bring down costs and invest in prevention, while ensuring seniors and the
disabled are not left behind. 

First, I firmly believe that Americans should have a choice
of either keeping their existing coverage or choosing a public option that
would provide affordable health care coverage.   A public option must
be included in plans for reform because it will reduce costs, encourage
competition and keep insurance companies honest.

Second, we need to spend our health care dollars more
wisely.  America spends more than any other industrialized nation on
health care, but those dollars are not translating into better outcomes for
patients.  One sure way to reduce costs for families, businesses, and
government is to invest in prevention.  By making sure that every American
has access to preventive care, we can catch diseases early and prevent
financial hardship.  We also need to invest in disease management,
affordable prescription drugs, and wellness strategies like exercise and
healthy school lunches.

Finally, one of my biggest concerns is that we look out for
seniors and disabled Americans.  Long-term care has become prohibitively
expensive for many folks and I’ve spoken to Oregonians all over the state who
are struggling to cover sky-high costs for their family members. 
Americans should not have to worry about their parent or grandparent receiving
the quality care they deserve as they get older. 

Doing nothing is not an option.  We must seize this extraordinary
opportunity to pass real health care reform and help improve the health of our
citizens by investing in prevention.   President Obama has made
health care reform a priority and I’m confident that we can work together to
provide coverage for all Americans.